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Rez

Interesting take on Jane Jacobs observations. I think I'll tag along in reading the book.

Zoltán

You pick up on the major effect that the book had on me with regard to transport (and, actually, with regard to cities in general) - the need to tactically move forward with small steps. Your linking her words on Corbusier to symbolic transit is new to me, but it's an idea I shall remember (because if a problem is to seem serious to me, it tends to have to invoke a Corbusian equivalent of Godwin's law).

That said, I'm never that sure about the outcomes of Radiant City on road traffic, because Radiant City was a very dense place, with everyone clustered around places transit could stop, and Corbusier spoke of the operation of subways, commuter rail and buses, all on a grid layout well spaced for transit - so the freeways would have failed in one of two ways, the first becoming gridlocked as Jacobs suggested, or alternatively being utterly superflous, moving on their huge infrastructure far fewer people than the PT did. This would, I suppose, largely depend upon how much an authority governing this fictional ideal wished to spend on transit operations.

Zoltán

Jane Jacobs argued that really fast transit could link together areas just as dull and dead as really fast travel by car could. While this probably doesn't hold entirely true; cars have their own particular feature of needing a whole lot of space per passenger km that makes suburban and exuburban areas what they are, but there's some evidence for her view in certain suburban areas of Helsinki. Many of the suburbs that have come about there over the past fifty years or so are densely built places with apartment blocks clustered around railway stations, with fast rail service typically every ten minutes, but are utterly depressing places to be, devoid of much visible pedestrian or commercial life.

So while cars are a big problem, that good transit will solve, good transport doesn't automatically equal good cities. Which, I suppose, means listening to urbanists about how to create a city of places that people actually want to go to, even if they do occasionally come out with silly things about spending money on slow transit.

Mikko

@Zoltan:

At many of the Helsinki commuter rail and metro stations, the buildings are actually *not* clustered at the station in any sane manner. Most of the current alignment of the metro lines follow a motorway, so a lot of the surface area around the stations is asphalt. Even at many of the stations where that's not the case, there's still a large parking lot, if not an outright green field site next to the station. A few (Leppävaara, Myyrmäki, Matinkylä at the end of the upcoming west metro) have a ginormous boxy hypermarket/shopping center building with blank walls right at the station, which makes for a pretty unpleasant pedestrian environment. So yes, good city planning doesn't automatically follow from heavy rail transit construction.

Also, many of the Helsinki area suburbs that have a rapid transit station only look like transit-based development. The mode share of rail is actually not high in the traffic to other suburban areas. Everybody goes to central Helsinki by public transit because parking in the city center is sufficiently difficult, but the traffic that has actually been growing fast over the past two decades is that which takes place outside of the center. The mode share of public transit there is quite low. The rail lines don't serve those needs at all, and orbital, BRT-ish bus lines have been built very late, Jokeri 1 opening in 2003 and Jokeri 2 being now under construction and scheduled to open in 2014 (there's a tunnel whose construction is about to begin).

In Brisbane

Ah problem is NSW State Gov is taking away Clover Moore's powers and replacing it with a committee from the State under the 'Stop the war on the car' proviso.

Same 'stop the war on the car' cry is heard in Toronto, Canada with Mayor Rob Ford.

GMichaud

Two things, incremental is fine, but broad concepts like the Beltline in Atlanta, right or wrong help define the turf. Organizing concepts like the Beltline can define transit.
The other thing is Mikko @ Helsinki,Finland. I agree that the suburbs outside of the inner region are a crap shoot of urban environments. I also believe the central city areas do an excellent job of general mass transportation. The country at large is pretty good too. I live in the State of Missouri, Finland is a country of similar population and a little larger land area. The comparison could not be more stark, Missouri is a transit wasteland compared to Finland.

Andrew

My general impression is that removing road capacity tends to increase traffic congestion. Claiming that traffic will "disappear" when roads are removed is a myth. There are just too many people whose trips are poorly served by transit in most cities, particularly people going to/from the suburbs (like people who live in Toronto and work in the office parks in Mississauga near Pearson Airport). An obvious example is the controversial St. Clair streetcar project, where reducing the number of car lanes to 1 each way in sections has noticably worsened congestion. This has also increased traffic congestion on Eglinton Avenue, which also severely slows down the #32 Eglinton West bus. Increased traffic congestion is also caused by traffic dumped on Eglinton by the half-completed Allen Road expressway which ends there.

Mikko

"The comparison could not be more stark, Missouri is a transit wasteland compared to Finland."

I should say that the Helsinki region heavy rail does get quite good ridership despite many of the urban areas around the stations being a lot less than ideal. The single branched metro line has 58 million passengers per year and the commuter train system (three lines) carries about 55 million per year, all in an urban area of about one million people. Expensive underground extensions are currently being built to both, to the tune of 800 - 1000 million (metro) and 650 million euros (commuter rail, includes an airport link). The surroundings at several of the stations are being filled in, some with quite massive construction, but I'm not sure that the urban design is getting much better. The pedestrian environment still seems quite dead, even if it's more likely to be in the shadow of a 25-storey tower or such.

Now a clunky reference to Missouri: the transit monument of Helsinki and the terminus of all three aforementioned commuter rail lines, the Central Railway Station, was designed by Eliel Saarinen, the father of Eero, who designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Al Dimond

@Andrew: It sort of depends where you are, what you're measuring, how long you measure for, and how much you care. Short-term effects of road closures in major cities have been a mixed bag, but in the long run people build around the transportation options that are available.

If you're in a place where development patterns force long trips, removing capacity on a road will surely add congestion on that road in the short run; it will also cause more congestion on some connecting and parallel roads and relieve congestion on others. On the other hand, in such a place, you'll also see increased congestion when they build the next suburb out; the next suburb out is typically built to whatever extent there's extra road capacity in surrounding areas. If you can successfully build enough freeways to curb congestion then your city is probably dead. So maybe you stop worrying about staying ahead of congestion with road-building and start giving people better options.

cargo

I'll be crawling through her book this weekend. She's got interesting matters to discuss. Transportation, traffic congestion and effect of automobiles to the environment are some of the major issues to discuss.

Nathanael

Andrew, traffic definitely does disappear when you remove roads.

But the question is how *much* traffic disappears.

In the case of St. Clair, for instance, one lane in each direction was removed... and it looks like about HALF a lane of traffic in each direction disappeared. So, congestion went up.

St. Clair is particularly problematic because as Steve Munro pointed out, the City and the TTC seem unable to operate that streetcar line properly. It's possible to maintain reliable timings and headways now, but the TTC is so used to being stuck in traffic that they're not doing it.... meanwhile, the City really doesn't like to actually turn on the transit priority signals.

So the benefits of the St. Clair project are not being fully realized due to STUPID stuff which needs to be fixed.

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